On 13 September 2021, nine drug criminals had a near-death experience in a container in the Port of Rotterdam. They locked themselves up in a container and ended up with a lack of oxygen. Their goal was to sneak out of the container in the middle of the night and smuggle the cocaine out of another sea container and off the port site. Robby Roks, Associate Professor of Criminology at Erasmus School of Law, talks about these so-called 'collectors' in the AD.
The cocaine that comes to Rotterdam in sea containers is collected in this manner regularly. The collectors, the criminals who retrieve the cocaine from the containers, lock themselves in another container outside the terminal. This container is then moved onto the port site. The collectors leave the container in the middle of the night and break open the container where the goods are stored. Some collectors even spend days in a container, waiting for their moment to collect.
Trapped like a rat
Usually, they bring enough tools, supplies and even a bucket for defecating. On this occasion, the container in which the collectors were hiding was probably placed directly against another container. As a result, the container's doors were jammed, and the collectors ended up with a lack of oxygen. Their only option way to survive was to call the emergency number.
'Not errand boys'
This technique is, therefore, hazardous. According to Roks, this is the result of the improved checks of containers by the investigation services: "Say, twenty years ago, collectors used to be able to collect drugs from containers uninterrupted. Nowadays, they bump into all kinds of challenges. For example, it is no longer possible to use someone else's key card to enter the port site. The motivation to keep doing these activities is the revenue: these are still enormously high."
The Dutch Public Prosecution Service and the terminal where the collectors were saved are not willing to comment about the profile of the criminals. Roks, however, reckons that the collectors are relatively highly ranked within the organisation: "I feel that these collectors are not just errand boys. They need to be settled within the drugs network. I do not see why an organisation would otherwise trust them with so much cocaine. It would not be desirable that they would keep the cocaine for themselves or even start working under their own steam the next time."